OCGC Seminar - From field to fact: How William Logan created the Geological Survey of Canada


Dr. Brian Shipley

Thursday, January 26th 
11:30 a.m. 

Gamble Hall
615 Booth Street 
Geological Survey of Canada 



Just in time for the GSC's 175th anniversary, this talk will look at the Survey's origins and development during its first decades under the dedicated leadership of Sir William Edmond Logan (1798-1875), Canada's preeminent mid-nineteenth-century scientist. Logan and the GSC were in many respects made for each other: The Montreal-born Logan was essential to the Survey's institutional success, and the Survey in turn gave him a broad platform on which to build a career far beyond that of the astute amateur he had been in Britain. Drawing on previously conducted doctoral research, this talk will aim to go beyond the familiar story to generate a deeper appreciation of how Logan was able to function effectively in the nineteenth-century worlds of field research, colonial government, and international science, and in so doing to create a Geological Survey of Canada that impressively exceeded original expectations.

In particular, this presentation will explore how Logan translated his experience of fieldwork into publicly visible products such as international exhibitions, museum displays, geological maps, and official reports, which in turn created interest and confidence in the potential of Canadian geology. Even as Logan's star climbed in the 1850s and 60s, his persona as a fieldworker remained central to his scientific authority. This presentation will trace Logan's field experience from the coal fields of industrial South Wales in the 1830s to colonial Canada, most notably Gaspe, in the 1840s. It will also explore the place of the GSC in the Pre-Confederation Canadian state, concluding with a look at the impact and recognition Logan's Survey had achieved by the time of his retirement at the end of the 1860s.



Brian Shipley completed his Ph.D. in Canadian history and the history of science at Dalhousie University in 2007, with a dissertation on Sir William E. Logan and the early years of the Geological Survey of Canada. He also contributed to two Library and Archives Canada web projects on Logan and other notable figures in the GSC's history. He also holds an M.A. in history and philosophy of science and technology from the University of Toronto, and an undergraduate degree in Arts & Science from McMaster University, where he worked for two summers as a geology research assistant in the mid-1990s. From 2001-2006, Brian was an Assistant Editor withthe Thomas A. Edison Papers project at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. In 2007, he joined Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada (now Global Affairs Canada) as a foreign service officer, and has since served abroad at the Embassy of Canada in Seoul, South Korea and the Consulate General of Canada in Minneapolis.